Writing BDSM (For People Who Aren’t in the Community)

If you aren’t into BDSM, chances are your best understanding of it comes from 50 Shades of Grey. The only thing 50 Shades exemplifies is how NOT to write BDSM. So strap in (pun intended) because I’m going to lay out how to write BDSM correctly.

1. Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC)

This is the first tenet of BDSM. Any responsible Dominant or submissive will follow SSC, and you’d do well to write this into your work, especially if experienced players are involved. I’ll break this down further for you.

  • Safe – This first principle is about ensuring that all players involved play with safety in mind. That is to say, STDs, mental health, physical health, activities, and safewords have been addressed, with the appropriate accommodations made. “Safe” ensures that, regardless of the intensity of the scene, all players walk away only with the harm they desired.
  • Sane – This second principle is no less important than the first. The power dynamic between a Dominant and a submissive is one built on trust–trust that all players involved will play responsibly, especially the Dom. As we often like to say, the Dom has the power, but it’s the sub who controls it. A Dom only has as much power as the sub is willing to entrust. Any Dom who takes power that hasn’t been given freely is an abuser.
  • Consensual – Perhaps the most important of the three, this principle ensures that a scene never becomes forced. If it’s not consensual, it’s not play. It’s abuse; it’s rape. All activities need to be agreed upon, and if a safeword is said, that’s the end. No questions asked.

2. Safewords

Firstly, safewords are signals used to either affirm, slow, or end BDSM play. Everyone has different preferences for safewords, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to incorporate that into your work. Just remember to incorporate it into your work. Safewords are not optional.

Different types of safewords:

  • “Stop” safewords – These safewords are meant to end the scene, and they have to be something one wouldn’t normally shout in bed. You’re probably familiar with these safewords. They’re the most commonly talked about in literature, and what we commonly refer to when we “safeword out” of a scene.
  • “Traffic” safewords – These safewords follow a “red light,” “yellow light,” “green light” structure. Sometimes they’re just the colors red, yellow, and green. Sometimes people use different safewords with the same structures–as in “red” is “stop”; “yellow” is “slower” or “I’m about to red”; and “green” is “keep going.” Green is typically used when a Dom is checking in with their sub. Some Doms and subs may choose to replace the colors with personalized safewords, like using “Los Angeles” in place of “green.”
    • Ex: D – “Where are you?” s – “Los Angeles.”
  •   Safe signals – Sometimes a scene prevents the sub from talking, such as when a ball gag is being utilized. It’s a good idea in these situations to have safe signals.
    • Ex: Three grunts, a dog trainer’s clicker, hand signals, glow sticks, Dom places hand in sub’s periodically and waits for a squeeze to continue or stop, etc.

Note: Yes, Doms can safeword, too!

3. Scene Negotiations

Perhaps one of the easiest and most fun parts of writing BDSM, and E.L. James still fucked it up–scene negotiations are (you guessed it) the negotiations players have about an upcoming scene concerning what activities they are willing and unwilling to do. A lot of romance writers outside of the BDSM community think writing negotiations are boring. In truth, negotiations are one of the most fun parts of BDSM. They’re like the teaser trailer to the main event, and it’s your job as the writer to make negotiations fun for everyone. Make jokes about shared likes. Use the soft and hard limits to add to character development. Negotiations are hot–like foreplay.

Here’s a checklist you can use to get started, and remember negotiations are not optional–like safewords.

4. Soft and Hard Limits

A limit is anything a player is hesitant or unwilling to push. A soft limit is a limit a player might push, but generally is avoided. A hard limit is a limit that must NEVER be pushed. Ever. If a hard limit is intentionally crossed, that is abuse because it has already been agreed upon that it is a hard limit. It would be a huge violation of trust. Similarly, a soft limit must never be pushed unless with explicit permission.

This is obviously an incomplete list, but it’s just for beginners. If you have any questions for me, don’t be afraid to ask in the comments or shoot me a message. I promise I don’t bite (unless you want me to).

About T.K.

I'm an LGBT writer, biological anthropology student, and an ardent aro(mantic).* *One who does not feel romantic attraction.
This entry was posted in Writing "Advice" and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Writing BDSM (For People Who Aren’t in the Community)

  1. dave94015 says:

    I’m not sure why many writers of #bdsm avoid the negotiation process. Maybe because, to them, it’s not as exciting as the action? You’re right, though, negotiating a scene can be very hot. It’s almost like foreplay. Come to think of it, it is foreplay!

  2. dave94015 says:

    Reblogged this on dave94015 and commented:
    some #bdsm basics for those new to the scene…or writing about it!

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